Today, Lib Dems at conference debated a motion on One Member, One Vote. Unfortunately, I wasn’t called to speak but I wanted to share some of my thoughts with you anyway, so here is what I’d planned to say with my 3 minutes (please excuse any grammatical errors, this was written for me to say and was never intended to be published):
Here we are, back in the SECC after another busy year: in Scotland we’ve fought, and won, a referendum on top of campaigning for the Euros and multiple by-elections as well. Luckily, though, like most Liberal Democrats, we’re used to having a lot to do and never enough time or people to do it so we’ve gotten quite good at allocating the resources we do have to the places where they’ll be most effective.
Over the last 12 months, I have been one of those shuffled resources, as have many other Scottish, and I’m sure, UK-wide members.
As a Euro candidate in the run up to May, I liaised with, trained and encouraged other local parties to get out and get active in our best areas, and I joined the many other activists who’d left their home turf to campaign in our held seats to lend a hand to our MPs.
As the candidate for the Cowdenbeath by-election, I spent most of my time over in Fife grabbing hold of every possible opportunity to get our messages out through the national media to help ensure that listeners and viewers across Scotland knew that the Lib Dems were (and, indeed, are) cutting taxes, raising pensions, creating jobs and holding the Scottish Government to account on the big issues like childcare and, of course, independence.
Although we did manage to fit in 2 or 3 Focuses and a handful of Knock and Drop rounds locally, we have been told all year, quite sensibly, to focus elsewhere.
Now, these are scenarios we’re all used to. Campaigning in the areas that will benefit from it the most isn’t a novelty for the Lib Dems but, unfortunately, this year it has come back to bite our local party quite hard.
Our membership dropped this year, as you might expect, and as a result we’ve found ourselves with less than 30 members.
Despite all of our hard work over the last 12 months, conference, I’m standing here today without a vote, without a voice, and without the ability to represent the other dedicated, hard-working members of my local party who have been left with no conference reps at all; disenfranchised for going where we were needed.
Going forward, we hope to spend a bit more time in our own area, but with the General Election is just around the corner and we know that we’re needed more in East Dumbartonshire and Argyll & Bute.
We’ve been told again this morning, by Willie Rennie and Ming Campbell, that Scottish members need to go and campaign in our held seats. It is vital that we do that but there’s a huge conflict of interest there for 12 Scotland’s local parties who will continue to be denied representation under the current system until they ignore these calls for help and focus instead on recruitment in their own areas. And we’re just a handful of the 68 local parties throughout the UK who find themselves in the same position.
If we pass this motion today, we can carry on lending support where it’s most needed, rather than worrying about representation which is something we should be able to take for granted in a Democratic Party.
And as we gear up for our own local elections in 2017 and start really upping our local activity and hopefully start calling in some of these favours we’ve earnt, I hope we can go out recruiting equipped to sell the greatest benefit there is of Liberal Democrat membership – internal democracy. I’d like to stand on the doorstep and tell people that joining the Lib Dems will give them a real say in policy, rather than mumbling away to them:
“hey, join our party! If we sign up a few people today you might POSSIBLY be in with a chance of convincing one of us to s let you have a go at being a rep one day so that you can vote on policy…”
No, that’s not good enough.
So, if you do have a vote today, please consider how you’d feel if it was taken from you, and vote to pass this motion. Because I can’t.